Knuckles Didn’t Learn a Thing From Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Knuckles barely takes centre stage in his own spin-off show.

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Sonic the Hedgehog 2 had such high energy and tight pacing, that it was easy to see why it was such a hit among fans and newcomers. Knuckles, the first show in the Sonic cinematic universe, shifts its focus to the eponymous Knuckles instead, following him as he goes on a road trip with Wade to a bowling tournament, all while corrupt G.U.N. agents try to hunt him for money.

Unfortunately, while Sonic the Hedgehog 2 made the future of the Sonic film franchise seem so exciting, Knuckles leaves you feeling tired and deflated instead. Several fans have voiced their dissatisfaction at the show. “They went and made a show where the “Sonic” stuff has less presence than ever,” says one audience member on Metacritic. “It kinda has me a bit nervous for the upcoming [Sonic the Hedgehog 3],” says another on Rotten Tomatoes.

Why was Knuckles seen as disappointing by many, especially in light of the success of Sonic the Hedgehog 2?

 

Too Much Focus on Human Characters

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was smart enough not to devote too much of its screen time to the human characters save for Dr. Robotnik. Knuckles, on the other hand, goes the opposite route. Sonic and Tails make a glorified cameo in the first episode, and Knuckles’s elder Pachacamac shows up twice as a ghost, but Knuckles is the only real non-human character of note.

It becomes clear pretty fast, though, that Knuckles alone isn’t enough to support an entire six-episode minishow as so much of his backstory and character have already been established in the first two Sonic movies. The first movie started out with Longclaw’s battle against the echidnas, and the second movie explained how Knuckles’s family was a part of that battle.

The writers must know this, too, because the more the show goes on, the more the show focuses on Wade instead of Knuckles, giving heavy attention to his family life and his wanting to win the bowling tournament. By the fourth episode, Wade has pretty much become the protagonist and Knuckles the deuteragonist. Knuckles isn’t even in the fourth episode all that much, and the following episodes have him being Wade’s sidekick and not much else.

The show’s last few minutes do scramble to give Knuckles back the spotlight, but by that point, the damage has already been done, and most of the finale’s runtime has been dedicated to closing Wade’s character arc instead of Knuckles’s. It doesn’t help that the show ends with a fizzle and not a bang, either, as discussed in the next category.

 

Uninteresting Villains

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Knuckles was Sonic’s antagonist for most of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and rewatching it now, it’s still impressive how much of a threat Knuckles is to Sonic in the film, even when you know they’re going to end up as friends. “Do I look like I need your power?” he says to Sonic when they first meet, and he’s right. Knuckles is a lot stronger than Sonic, so watching these two superpowered aliens fight is seriously entertaining.

The main villains of Knuckles are about as boring as villains can get. They’re two corrupt agents aiming to kidnap Knuckles so they can sell his power to a buyer who’ll use it for evil guns and machines. When Knuckles first meets them, one of them points a gun at Knuckles and says “Do I look like I need your power?” After this, the second agent goes, “What are you talking about? Of course, we need his power.”

Not only is this a too on-the-nail retread of the line from the second film, but it also highlights a big problem. In a show named after Knuckles, the one whom Tails called “the most dangerous warrior in the galaxy”, why are these the antagonists? Not only are they nothing without their weapons, they also aren’t half as fun as Dr. Robotnik, who Jim Carrey played with all the liveliness that made him such a household name.

They’re boring villains with boring motivations, and their ultimate defeat feels so easy, that it’s anything but a satisfying climax. While shows typically have lower stakes than those of movies, this also leads to the question: Did Knuckles have to be a minishow?

 

Terrible Pacing

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One common criticism pointed at Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was that the film was too long. However, it didn’t necessarily feel long because of its literal two-hour length. Rather, it was because too much was happening in its screenplay, and the film could’ve benefited from a cliffhanger ending more than just being trimmed to a shorter runtime.

Knuckles, on the other hand, has too much filler in it to justify its decision to be a six-episode minishow rather than a streaming film. While the show has its fun moments, there’s too much padding in between them with scenes that easily could’ve been shortened or even left on the trimming floor.

For instance, the second episode involves Wade trying to save a kidnapped Knuckles, but before that, Wade has an entire fantasy sequence about how he’s going to save Knuckles. This, of course, involves him being incredibly smooth and partaking in unrealistic spy capers. It’s not a very funny scene, but even if it was, this scene could’ve been just a few seconds long, like the fantasy solutions Shaun comes up with in Shaun of the Dead.

Other than comedy, the only real purpose this scene could have is to give us insight into Dave’s character. However, Dave is already a well-established character, as the first two films already showcased his goofy personality. If the Sonic franchise plans on being a cinematic universe, they need to understand what being a cinematic universe entails, which leads us to probably Knuckles’s biggest problem as an entry in the Sonic film franchise.

 

Self-Contained and Inconsequential

Knuckles is only the third entry in the Sonic cinematic universe, and coming this early, it’s bizarre that Knuckles is such an inconsequential show. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 felt like such an event with the introduction of Knuckles and Tails, numerous exciting set pieces, and an ending setting up the start of the friendship between Sonic, Knuckles, and Tails, the possible return of Dr. Robotnik, and the introduction of Shadow, a fan-favorite character from the games.

Knuckles, unfortunately, feels like it was made to be as self-contained as possible. While Knuckles was aimed for audience members who have seen the first two Sonic films, people without Paramount+ subscriptions will most likely be able to watch Sonic the Hedgehog 3 just fine this December. Knuckles sets up nothing about Dr. Robotnik’s return, Shadow’s introduction, or even seemingly anything about future projects.

With how much the show itself in absurdist humor and dream sequences — the fourth episode, for instance, takes place almost entirely in Wade’s head — Knuckles feels too strait-jacketed by the films’ status quo to be of any real necessity. Nothing too important can happen in the show because those events must be reserved for the movies.

Small-scale stories can be fun, but as expected, no permanent change actually happens in Knuckles that’ll affect the rest of the franchise. Knuckles learns the exact same lesson he did in the second film, the villains all get defeated quite neatly, everything is tied up in a nice little bow, and despite so much attention being put on him, Wade will most likely remain a side character in Sonic the Hedgehog 3.

Could those predictions be wrong? Could plot points from Knuckles make a return in future movies and shows? Perhaps, but the show itself does nothing to suggest that. Considering how young the franchise still is, it’s a serious head-scratcher why Paramount would release a show that feels so weightless, especially with the much-hyped Sonic the Hedgehog 3 releasing the same year.

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